Camping Microwave Ideas or How to Make Your Meal Hot Outdoors
A century-old wisdom of Henry David Thoreau Walden says “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads”. This is all about nature around us. People who enjoy morning dew, fresh cool air, logs crackling in the fire, night sky rich with stars, the rustle of tent and coziness of a sleeping bag would sacrifice the comfort of their homes to the romantic appeal of camping. The only thing they are not ready to do without in nature is a hot substantial meal.
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Warming up meals during camping can be quite challenging. At home, there is a microwave to do the job while outside the house microwave is hard to be used. So what to do when you are on the picnic with no traditional kitchen gadgets? Let's face it, there are no camping microwaves. Camping presupposes minimum appliance, least possible to no energy consumption, and little efforts applied. A standard microwave oven does not correspond to above requirements, thus you can hardly find one. With that, there is a variety of alternatives how to warm up foods being outdoors. We tried to summon all the options we managed to find how you can make your meals hot while camping without a traditional microwave at hand.
Hot meal idea #1 – Use your automobile battery
Camping trips by car have their advantage – they allow to make use of devices that require electricity. For that purpose a car power inverter is needed, a device that helps to power most electrical appliance from a laptop to a microwave. A power inverter is inexpensive and easy to use. Campers often exploit it in order to plug in kitchen gadgets when no electricity is available. If you need to get hot food fast at the picnic, it is better to opt for a smaller, thus for a less power-sucking microwave. The reason is simple – a car battery runs down slower. For example, if a mini microwave is 600 W, then an inverter must be at least 800-1000 W. Let's make some calculations. If you warm up foods at 600 W for 4 minutes, this heating session will take about 40 watts from your car battery. A standard fully charged car battery (60 A/h) has a 720-watt capacity. It means that you can safely deal with a few heating sessions. But after that, you will have to start up the engine, let it idle or drive to charge the battery. Below there are some compact microwaves you can use for camping needs:
1. Whirlpool countertop microwave
If you are looking for the smallest microwave to satisfy your camping needs, this one might be a good option. It takes little space in a car trunk and does not demand a large countertop surface to be placed on. Regardless its size, you can easily place a dinner-size plate inside. Speaking about functionality, it works as it should. Due to its low energy-capacity, it won't drain a car battery so fast, unless you decide to roast the chicken.
- Pros: very small, dinner-size plate fits in there, works great, interesting design.
- Cons: too expensive, requires a pure sine wave inverter.
- Item weight: 33 pounds (15 kg)
- Item dimensions: 13.8 x 15.4 x 14.1 inches (35 x 39 x 35.8 cm)
- Price: $151.00 BUY NOW
2. Bella compact microwave oven
This is just another microwave that can be used while camping. It is smaller than many conventional microwaves so it won't take much space. There is even a variety of colors you can choose from. But the main feature is its performance. Many users claim that with the 700-watt capacity it seems more powerful than expected. For instance, a cup of water starts boiling in less than 1.5 minutes. This microwave is good for warming up leftovers or ready-cooked meals while being camping. At the same time, you can use it for cooking (especially with some microwave cooking bags) but keep in mind car battery capacity then.
- Pros: inexpensive, works good, small, a variety of color options, a rich set of programs.
- Cons: tough opening mechanism, does not heat evenly.
- Item weight: 22.7 pounds (10 kg)
- Item dimensions: 13.8 x 17.3 x 10.2 inches (35 x 44 x 26 cm)
- Price: $59.99 BUY NOW
Hot meal idea #2 – Flameless ration heaters
The idea of using exothermic chemical reaction for heating meals in picnic was taken from the US military forces. The meaning is that a small amount of water triggers the reaction without causing any flame of smoke. Even though camping does not require conspiracy, the concept is great. Heating bags are lightweight and small what is crucial when weight matters. Here are some options of ration heaters:
3. Portable camping cooking bag
When fires are prohibited but hot meals are desirable, this cooking bag can be a life saver. It works for canned sealed foods only. If you are trying to cut weight off and a compact microwave is not an option, this simple device will help you solve a breakfast/dinner problem. It includes a reusable warmer bag, a measuring cup and 10 heating packs. You will need some water to initiate a chemical reaction. The instructions are quite detailed so there won't be any troubles in warming up foods. Caution: it is really hot so keep hands away from a hole to avoid burns.
- Pros: lightweight, easy to use, gets really hot, safe, no mess when heating, includes a measuring cup for convenience.
- Cons: takes 20-25 min, does not require fire, demands 2 packs for 1 food item to be warmed.
- Item weight: 4 ounces (113 g)
- Item dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches (14.7 x 2 x 20 cm)
- Price: $9.05 BUY NOW
4. Magic Cook portable lunch box container
If you are looking for a camping microwave option but with no plug and energy required, then this magic lunch box can be a nice substitution. It can be used both for cooking and warming foods. This appliance is good for people who like traveling or spending much time outdoors. You will need some water to start the reaction and additional heating packs if you need several courses of meals. A lunch box is compact though not as much as a portable cooking bag, durable and lightweight. Moreover, when not camping, you can also use this lunch box at home for keeping foods hot, cold or just for storing.
- Pros: versatile and multipurpose, good quality, starts heating instantly, includes a bowl, sturdy.
- Cons: 1 pack is enough for only 1 food cooking/warming, only 1 heating pack included.
- Item weight: 1 pound (450 g)
- Item dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 7.5 inches (14 x 12.7 x 19 cm)
- Price: $30.91 BUY NOW
5. Food packaging with built in heating elements
Some years ago a self-heating meal would be considered a dreamlike fantasy though now this is a pleasant reality that allows you to save energy and yet always have a hot dinner outdoors. The thing is you have to trigger a chemical reaction in the package to start warming the contents inside. It can be a shake, a snap or a twist depending on the food manufacturer. In any case, this is not a difficult routine to do, make sure to read the instructions on the package thoroughly before using the meal.
- Pros: safe, can be done indoors or outdoors, easy to use, compact, lightweight packages, good price.
- Cons: takes some time to warm the meals, food choice is limited, no bowl included.
- Item weight: 8.5 pounds (3.850 kg)
- Item dimensions: 5.5 x 7.2 x 5.5 inches (14 x 18.3 x 14 cm)
- Price: $69.99 (pack of 6) BUY NOW
Hot meal idea #3 – Electric heaters
An electric heater is just another alternative to how you can get a hot meal open air. This is an appliance that requires electricity but can also work good from a car battery. Electric heaters do need a car inverter so make sure you have one with you before starting for the picnic.
6. HotLogic mini portable oven
This portable oven looks more like a camping microwave, as least it is of a box shape and requires a source of energy. This is a highly recommended device with more than a thousand reviews on Amazon. It is a must have for people who travel a lot. Use a car power inverter port when in nature or plug in when in the office or a hotel room. Such device allows you to stick to your food preferences even when you are camping or having a business trip. Being an oven, it is good for warming foods rather for cooking or baking. A heat reflective inside increases heating efficiency so it promises to be fast at heating.
- Pros: no flame required, works silent, easy to use, capacious.
- Cons: needs energy, no car power port included.
- Item weight: 1.6 pounds (725 g)
- Item dimensions: 6.8 x 8.8 x 2.5 inches (17.3 x 22.3 x 6.3 cm)
- Price: $39.95 BUY NOW
7. Portable stove
Even being called a stove this appliance is much more helpful for warming up foods rather than for cooking. At the same time, it can raise foods' temperature up to 300 °F (150 °C). The principle is simple: you put the pre-cooked meal inside this box, plug it in and wait till your lunch is hot enough. This portable stove can easily work for a camping microwave. It is quite capacious to hold food for two. Though it won't be an option for campers who prefer tents to caravans but this is a must-have for truck drivers.
- Pros: inexpensive, compact, heats up fast, long power cord.
- Cons: the food gets burnt to the metal box, plastic pins and clips are easy to break.
- Item weight: 3.2 pounds (1.45 kg)
- Item dimensions: 10.5 x 7 x 7.8 inches (26.6 x 17.8 x 19.8 cm)
- Price: $30.40 BUY NOW
8. Electric heating lunch box
According to the reviews, this appliance is quite popular among office workers for allowing to get hot lunch in any place anytime. So why not make use of it while camping? The only demand is that you have to plug it into a car inverter. Once you have it, count your dinner is saved. This heating lunch box is well designed and works fast. There is a convenient compartment in the lid where a spoon and a fork are stored. The lid can be taken off completely for easy eating and cleaning.
- Pros: great idea, easy to use, convenient, easy to clean, sturdy, high-quality plastic.
- Cons: is good for only one person portion.
- Item weight: 1.4 pounds (635 g)
- Item dimensions: 9.5 x 7 x 4.5 inches (24 x 17.8 x 11.5 cm)
- Price: $27.99 BUY NOW
Hot meal idea #4 – Open fire heaters
The best thing about camping is setting a fire and viewing it. This is the most romantic part of any outdoor event; the smoke you sense and the warmth you feel are so tempting. But alongside fire gazing, you can also use open fire for heating meals as an alternative decision to a conventional microwave. So there are some methods of taking advantage of the fire:
9.Sterno Buffet Kit
When the weather is nasty, camping seems the last thing you would like to start. But a hot dinner can improve the situation and empower you with energy. Another option how to warm up foods outdoors is to use Sterno buffet kit construction. There is a metal frame, aluminum pans and candles. This is far from a camping microwave but it can perform one of its functions – warming. So in some situations, it makes sense using the kit, for instance during barbecues when you need to keep foods warm for long.
- Pros: compact, pans can be easily bought, candles last for 2.5 hours, solid construction, foldable frame.
- Cons: works only with 12"x10" (30x25 cm.) sized pans.
- Item weight: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg)
- Item dimensions: 20.8 x 13 x 3.2 inches (52.8 x 33 x 8 cm)
- Price: $12.48 BUY NOW
10. Folding stove
Probably the easiest and most traditional way of warming up foods outdoors is using the flame. To make it tamed, a folding stove was designed. It is compact and excellent for camping even in the areas where the open fire is prohibited. The construction is fold-flat and small but strong enough to hold a heavy pot. It takes time to heat canned food or warm some water but often camping changes your mind and simplify your demands for certain things including heating time. When there is no access to a traditional microwave, a folding stove can work as a camping microwave just fine.
- Pros: fold-flat construction, easy to assemble, works with solid and alcohol fuel, small.
- Cons: somewhat sloppy.
- Item weight: 0.47 pounds (213 g)
- Item dimensions: 5 x 6.5 x 6.5 inches (12.7 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm)
- Price: $9.99 BUY NOW
11. Portable butane stove burner
When a camping microwave is more a myth than a true appliance, a portable stove can be a life saver. Do you need to cook meals? Just do it! Do you need to warm some leftovers? There is no a problem. This small helper can do a great job! It is compact, lightweight, convenient to carry and easy to use. It can be used both indoors and outdoors. A protective case makes it simple to store and carry. You will need gas cans for it so make sure you have enough of them for the whole trip. Thus, if you want to be sure to always have hot meals during camping, grab this stove with you.
- Pros: a convenient case included, can be used right on the table, safe, provides a steady flame, easy to replace the cans.
- Cons: ignite mechanism designed poorly.
- Item weight: 3.7 pounds (1.6 kg)
- Item dimensions: 14 x 11 x 4.2 inches (35.5 x 28 x 10.5 cm)
- Price: $32.37 BUY NOW
12. Wood burning camping stove
The most romantic and sought-after attribute of camping is a campfire. It is often associated with heart talks, guitar, laughter, friends and some hot food. The last is actually not so easy to be cooked on the open fire, that is why it is better to subdue the flame with the help of a camping stove. You can use it for cooking and warming up leftovers. It is small, foldable and does not take much space in a backpack. Do not expect it to work like a microwave, rather enjoy its performance as it is. The stove is easy to assemble, sturdy and reliable. This is a wonderful appliance for the campers.
- Pros: reliable, compact when folded, easy to use, designed wisely, works great.
- Cons: the base is less sturdy.
- Item weight: 1.6 pounds (680 g)
- Item dimensions: 7.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches (18 x 16 x 2 cm)
- Price: $27.99 BUY NOW
13. Camp oven
Do you know the secret of a happy camping? They are numerous and different for every camper but one in common is a tasty hot meal! Camping is always associated with foods so if you don't want to spoil the impression of the outdoor event, better think of the device to provide you with enough picnic snacks. The camp oven is quite a bulky device but most productive of all. You can even bake cupcakes there if you are brave enough to niggle with batter in nature. For a campground, this is a godsend. You can use it to bake potatoes, cookies, buns, etc. It should be coupled with a camp stove which is accurately leveled. One more benefit is its price, which is unexpectedly low for such a great performance.
- Pros: low price for high quality, large, bakes great, sturdy and solid, great concept.
- Cons: metal edges are sharp.
- Item weight: 7.7 pounds (3.5 kg)
- Item dimensions: 13.5 x 12.9 x 3.3 (34.3 x 32.7 x 8.4 cm)
- Price: $28.19 BUY NOW
14. Elekcity camping stove
There is another idea how to warm your meals in nature – to use a camping stove. Elekcity offers an ultralight portable stove that you can carry in a pocket! Unbelievable convenience when every pound(kilo) matters. There is a risk some outdoorsmen can overlook it because of a price. It costs a penny in comparison with similar brand devices but is amazing at heating. Some campers call it a ''pocket rocket'' and it makes sense. This little burner is fast to be attached to a Primus canister, so it saves time when the night falls and you lack time to set the fire. There is a piezo igniter that works instantly.
- Pros: easy to adjust, lightweight, comes in a protective canister, not expensive at all, excellent for ultralight backpacking, has an igniter.
- Cons: too tiny.
- Item weight: 0.3 pounds (136 g)
- Item dimensions: 2.3 x 1.8 x 3.5 inches (5.8 x 4.5 x 8.9 cm)
- Price: $10.99 BUY NOW
15. EcoZoom Rocket Stove
It is hard to explain why the manufacturer named it rocket but it really rocks during camping! Being of a saucepan shape, it is good at cooking and heating that is why you should not come short of it. Consider it an idea for a camping microwave. The rocket stove can fully satisfy your camping needs and help as a backup. It is eco-friendly, energy efficiency and provides a steady flame. What you need is a bunch of fireplace log pieces. The only drawback is that you can't regulate the intensity of the fire. The stove has a set of handles that allow to relocate it easily whenever you like. Make sure you follow the safety instructions on stoves like that and keep your hands protected from burns.
- Pros: thoughtfully designed, looks attractive, provides steady flame, easy to move, made of metal, require little fuel, great productivity.
- Cons: latches lack sturdiness, produces too much soot.
- Item weight: 16 pounds (7.25 kg)
- Item dimensions: 12.5 x 11 x 11 inches (31.75 x 28 x 28 cm)
- Price: $158.41 BUY NOW
Hot meal idea #5 – Alternative methods
Let's go green during camping! Solar energy is 100% free and eco-friendly. Moreover, the sun is a sustainable and renewable source of energy. On an industrial level, solar energy is absorbed by solar panels, large and bulky, but this is not the case when you need to warm up foods in a sunny area. There should be a compact construction. So here is the idea of how you can stay full up in nature on a sunny day.
16. Sunflair solar oven
Why not use free energy of the sun while camping? This is what probably the engineers of Sunflair though before they showed the world their concept – a mini solar oven. Sun rays are not so fast at cooking and heating but this does not diminish the idea of a solar oven. It works faster in very sunny regions, so if you know exactly where you are going to camp and whether there will be many sunny days, you can think of buying this device. Be ready that the largest temperature it can provide is only 225 °F (105 °C), which can't be enough for baking but good for cooking eggs, small roasting and heating meals.
- Pros: foldable, small, compact, wisely designed, heats up quickly, easy to use.
- Cons: works only in sunny weather.
- Item weight: 1.25 pounds (560 g)
- Item dimensions: 11 x 5 x 13 inches (28 x 12.7 x 33 cm)
- Price: $79.99 BUY NOW
Camping essentials you may need
Regardless of what your choice of a microwave alternative is, make sure to enable yourself with helpful camping staples to make your cooking routine easier.
- A box of matches and some ignition mixture. Even if you get ready for the camping by purchasing one of the abovementioned appliances, it is recommended to always have matches and a bit of a fire stimulation fluid in case of damp ground and logs. If everything you've prepared for cooking fails, you will always have a backup and will be able to start an open fire to save your dinner.
- Dishes necessities. Cooking during camping requires thorough preparation but outdoor events can be full of surprises. If you don't want to be struck by them unexpectedly, it would be thoughtful to take a medium to a large lightweight pot and a compact grate that you can place over fire. If weight is a great concert and a pot will add to a backpack mass, then take a piece of aluminum foil, which you can shape in a pan and cook or heat some food. You can even fry some bacon and eggs on a foiled pan in case of emergency.
- Tongs and gloves. These tools are meant to protect you from burns which are undesirable for campers. Pulling food off a portable stove or even a heating lunch box bare-handed is not very pleasant.
Let nothing mar your camping experience, neither the bad weather nor a lack of certain camping gear!